Fearful Symmetries

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12 August, 2016

Sláinte Mhath: Swamp Thang by Oliphant Brewing



The fine folks at Oliphant up in Somerset have heard the siren call of the Summer of Rauch 2016 and given us a smoky twofer. First there was a rauch Vienna lager and now I have Swamp Thang, their "smokier scotch ale".

It seems that American craft brewers know one and only one Scottish beer – the scotch ale or wee heavy. I don't recall seeing a Scottish ale or a Caledonian Stout or a Pict Pale Ale or anything that isn't a wee heavy. It's like there's this stereotype that all Scottish beer styles are big, dark, and malty. Surely not every Scotsperson has the temperament of Inspector Rebus and hangs out catching a cool breeze on the Isle of Skye needing a heady brew at all times. Don't the Scots have a lighter, fizzier brew for those times when the sun shines as couples traverse the Royal Mile?

I don't know enough about the brews of Scotland to even make an attempt at commentary although I'm sure that, if there were other Scottish styles then an American microbrewer somewhere must surely have given it a go. I just haven't seen them and big Scotch ales represent the land of Sean Connery...Now that I look at Oliphant's beer list, I see that Swamp Thing, Swamp Thang's smaller sibling, is called a "smoked Scottish ale". Harumph.

Swamp Thang (I'm not sure if it should be capitalized or not as the folks at Oliphant seem to be devotees of ee cummings.) pours a lovely deep mahogany. Up to the light the beer was revealed to be clear with an abundance of bubbles. Up top was a big, light tan heid that was rather loose and lasted a fair while.

The smoke greeted my nose with a hearty olfactory handshake. It smelled beech-woody – but not bacony! Joining the smoke was a nice bit of caramel sweetness along with booze. The beer smelled quite a bit like whiskey.

A big blast of smoky goodness started my sips. Again, no bacon here just simple smoke which sat atop more of that caramel and a little malted sweetness which was redolent of dried fruits like apricot. My tongue also caught something that was earthy in a woody, tabaccoy kind of way. While there may have been a lot of bubbles in the beer, I didn't taste that many. Still there was some carbonation to help cut the malt. And of course there was an alcohol burn.

While the smoke faded at the end, the malt sweetness lingered on. It was joined by some grassy hop flavor and some bitterness too which managed to eek out a decent bit of dryness for a nice contrast to all of the malty flavors. Swamp Thang is 8.2% and so there was more booziness to be had on the finish. My glass was left with foam everywhere – loads of webbing all around.

Oliphant has gone 2/2, in my book, this Summer of Rauch. I absolutely loved the smokiness here and I'm sure Robert Burns would have written a poem about it were he still alive and living in Wisconsin. ("Wee, heavy smokie...") There's enough smoke flavor here to satisfy the most ardent fans of the fuliginous but this is a big brew and the other flavors pull though just fine. Indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed how the smoke melded with the other, sweeter malt flavors. Despite being a big beer, it had a medium-heavy body that fended off chewiness. And the hops did a yeoman's job here chasing the malt away for a nice dry finish.

If I knew ore about crowlers and Oliphant's filling prowess, I'd buy more and put them in the cellar for the cooler weather of the Autumn of Rauch.

Junk food pairing: Go full Scot and pair Swamp Thang with a bag of Haggis & Cracked Pepper potato chips. Er, crisps.

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|| Palmer, 5:46 AM

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